Activists Concerned Over Reports of Migrant Children Held on Buses Overnight

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Government said it was unacceptable

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Reports that migrant teens were held on buses for long periods of time at the Dallas Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center drew concern from advocates for the teens Friday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services leased the convention center as a temporary processing center for migrant teenage boys detained at the U.S.-Mexico border while they waited to be united with relatives or sponsors.

NBC News reported that children have been held overnight on buses, forced to use the restroom, eat, and sleep in the vehicles.

Attorney Haim Vasquez represents families of children who have been processed at the convention center.

He said families he represents have not had children held on buses, but some were kept at the facility longer than expected.

“There’s no reason why a kid should be more than a couple of hours in a bus,” Vasquez said.

There is substantial security in areas behind the convention center that were set up by the government for vehicles entering and exiting the facility.

That is where NBC News recorded video of buses sitting, with children evidently inside.

A bus driver told NBC News that children were kept in the buses overnight at times.

The parents of a 15-year-old migrant boy told NBC News that he had been held on buses overnight. They said he was kept at the Dallas location for 42 days -- far longer than they had been told he would be there.

Activist Rene Martinez said he heard good things about the conditions inside the temporary convention center holding facility in the past, but that the bus questions were different.

“Leaving kids on buses for an extended period of time is totally unacceptable," Martinez said. "Somebody at HHS or whoever HHS is contracting with basically dropped the ball."

Vasquez said a convention center was never a good option for holding children.

“There are places where they can play, but these are not places where kids should be held for more than a couple of hours or a couple of days max,” Vasquez said.

Martinez and Vasquez said they support an investigation of the bus concerns.

“We have to look more and see what other facts can come out. A mistake, or an oversight, or is the government really on top of what is going on inside of these centers,” Vasquez said.

U.S. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a statement.

“This is completely unacceptable. We’re quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened and we’ll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority,“ the statement said.

The government lease of the convention center ends June 2.

The government has said it is expanding other locations to create more appropriate processing for the surge of migrant kids at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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